A long way from home

The nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping. Fresher’s week is little more than a distant memory and there’s still weeks to go until Christmas. The work’s piling up and if you find yourself starting to pine for home, don’t panic because homesickness affects us all.

Homesickness has many causes and affects different people in different ways. Typically, sufferers feel far away from home and yearn for friends, family and familiar faces. Being so far away leaves them feeling trapped and frustrated.

The dental course’s heavy workload and the added stress of impending exams can be causative factors, as for many the course is a lot more demanding than anticipated.

The unsettling effect that living away from home for the first time can have on your sleeping and eating habits can also contribute to the onset of the dreaded fresher’s flu. Get struck down by that and you’ll definitely be craving a little TLC from home.

Homesickness can affect people both mentally and physically. You may feel trapped, lonely, unloved, depressed or insecure. Accompanying these feelings, it is common to experience physical symptoms such as crying, insomnia, comfort eating, appetite loss and nausea.

The key to overcoming homesickness lies in identifying its underlying causes. There is no easy or quick-fix solution to feeling homesick, but the following tips can be a useful step in the right direction.

• Talk to someone about how you are feeling. You’ll be surprised to find out how many of your university friends and dental colleagues are going through the same thing as you, or have done in the past.

If not, there are always people willing to listen with a sympathetic ear and a helpful suggestion or two. For instance, your dental school tutor, general practitioner or university counselling service are also people you can turn to for advice.

• Get into a familiar routine. This will help you feel more settled. Mundane tasks such as sitting down to eat at the same time everyday or watching particular television shows can help you realise home isn’t too far away.

• Make your room more homely. Bring photographs and posters to decorate your walls from home and surround yourself with familiar items.

• Keep busy by joining as many sports clubs and activities as possible (but not at the expense of your academic responsibilities!). Being active is a great way to elevate your mood as well as it being a great way to get out of the house and meet new friends.

• Contact home regularly. Make the most of new technology by using internet voice calls and email to keep in touch as an alternative to conventional phone calls. Knowing exactly what is going on at home can help you feel less distant.

Feeling homesick is nothing to be ashamed of and affects many students. Getting used to a whole new lifestyle and surroundings is unsettling, but stay strong and remember the process of adjustment just takes time.

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